After seven straight weeks with a different driver visiting Victory Lane, NASCAR now has its second consecutive multiple-race winner.
Joey Logano cruised to his second victory in the last three races, firmly putting his stamp on the 2014 season with several starts remaining on the schedule. Logano along with teammate Brad Keselowski have also secured one-third of the first nine wins for Penske Racing.
With myriad other drivers hoping to still secure their first victory on the season, the competition is sure to be insane. The likes of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon still have hopes of hoisting a trophy this season, but they have fallen short numerous times early on.
Following a huge win at the beginning of the season in the Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. could make it 2-for-2 at Talladega in the second restrictor plate race of the season. Thanks to the immense amount of success he's had at the track, Earnhardt is once again a favorite at the Aaron's 499.
Just a few days remain before the green flag waves. Here's a look at the latest team news and top drivers for the Aaron's 499 on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on Fox.
Site: Talladega Superspeedway, Lincoln, Alabama
Date: Sunday, May 4
Start Time: 1 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Fox Sports Go
|2014 Sprint Cup Standings|
|Pos.||Driver||Car||Points||Wins||Top 5||Top 10|
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||88||309||1||5||6|
Latest Team News
As unpredictable as tracks like Darlington and Richmond have been in recent weeks, Talladega almost guarantees a wild finish.
Luckily for Team Penske, this is yet again another track where it has a contender. Keselowski has won two races at Talladega to go along with three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes.
While he won't be racing this weekend with Penske, Keselowski and Logano will have another teammate on the track in Juan Pablo Montoya later on this season. Montoya will drive for Penske during the upcoming race at Michigan and eventually run in the Brickyard 400, per Fox Sports: NASCAR:
Roger Penske also had to put out some fires this weekend as Keselowski and Matt Kenseth had a brush-up that mostly got settled on the track.
Keselowski spoke about the incident after the race, per George Diaz of the Orlando Sentinel, saying, "You've just got to put that in the bank and remember it."
The No. 2 driver wasn't the only one involved in a dispute at Richmond. One of the most notable tussles came when Marcos Ambrose and Casey Mears locked horns after the race concluded.
Both drivers were fined (Mears received a $15,000 fine and Ambrose shelled out $25,000) and put on probation, per Jeff Gluck of USA Today. Mears spoke about the incident following the touch up between the two drivers, via Gluck:
At the end of the day, none of that should ever happen. But in the heat of the moment, when you get out of your race car, and some stuff just happened that you didn't like, we started going at each other, and before we knew it, it escalated very quickly.
While Ambrose is attempting to put this issue behind him, fellow Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola has hopes of yet another strong finish at Talladega. After posting one of his only top 10s throughout his career, Almirola has an 83.7 driver rating at the track and will look to compete yet again.
Drivers to Watch
Dale Earnhardt Jr.
As successful as he's been this season, it's almost a sure thing to put Earnhardt at the top of this list every week.
There are hardly any tracks that he hasn't performed well at this year, and he just so happens to head to a superspeedway where he's always found success. With five wins at the track and 10 top-five finishes, Junior holds a 91.5 driver rating, which ranks third amongst current drivers.
Here is a look at Earnhardt's results at the track during his career:
|Dale Earnhardt Jr. Talladega Results|
|Wins||Top 5||Top 10||Avg. Finish||Avg. Running||Driver Rating|
After finishing second in the most recent running at the track, Junior showed that he can run at the top of the pack with Hendrick. Despite all five of his victories at the track coming with Dale Earnhardt Incorporated before his departure, his comfort in the car this season proves he can take the checkered flag again.
As always, fans can expect Earnhardt to run up near the top, but might also see him in the running as the white flag waves looking to get his second win of the year.
Another week, another track where Matt Kenseth has experienced plenty of success.
Though he doesn't have a victory to his name this season, Kenseth has a slew of great runs at Talladega. The slow start isn't a concern for Kenseth, as he told Bob Pockrass of Sporting News earlier in the month:
Last year at this time I was pretty comfortable. We had a couple wins, we were leading a lot of laps and things were really clicking along. We had some adversity along the way and we had some things happen, but we were performing at a really, really high level, so I was pretty comfortable and having a lot of fun.
I’m still comfortable, we’re still having fun. We want to be better and we set that bar so high last year that I think we expect that from ourselves all the time.
He will also be returning to the Dollar General paint scheme, as the company's Twitter account notes:
Hopefully that comfort level will return for Kenseth as he gets back to the superspeedway. Kenseth has one win at the track, five top-five results and nine top-10 finishes at the track, but he owns an average finish of 17.7.
Another top-10 result at the track would likely keep him near the top of the points standings, but a visit to Victory Lane would solidify a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver.
Oh, the Outlaw.
Much like every other driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, Kurt Busch is either near the top of the pack or lagging well behind.
During the first four races, Busch wasn't able to crack the top 20, much less the top 10. But he got back on track at California with a third-place finish followed by a win at Martinsville. Since that point, the older brother of Kyle Busch has finished outside the top 20, including finishing 39th at Texas.
Meanwhile, he's dropped from fifth after Martinsville to 25th heading into Talladega. But with the current points system, one strong run can heal all of those wounds.
Following a win from SHR teammate Kevin Harvick two races ago, expect Busch to run near the top again. If Keselowski once again has a good run at the track, things might just get interesting between the two former teammates.
That is, if he can avoid the "Big One."
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